My grandfather, J Om Prakash, who produced films under the banner Filmyug, had made many blockbuster movies with top-selling stars like Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Jeetendra and Rajendra Kumar. Rajendra Uncle and my grandfather had both shifted from Lahore to Mumbai during Partition and were major players in the film industry around the time that my father began his career. Rajendra Uncle played a big part in it. His wife, Shukla Aunty, tells me, “My husband and Roshan Saab were of the same era, so we were very close to each other. In fact, I always called his wife Bhabhi. When Roshan Bhai Saab passed away, we were really devastated. My husband was very busy those days and would spend approximately three weeks a month in Madras where he worked with all the top directors and producers. One day he was going for a shoot to Madras when Bhabhi told him that Rakesh had grown up and to please do something for him. Rajendraji told her not to worry. I don’t remember the name of the film (Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani) but the makers were looking for a very handsome young boy. My husband called producer B Nagi Reddy and director T Prakash Rao home and got them to meet Guddu in our house. Thus began his career as an actor.”
Rajendra Uncle repeated the act when producer Soodesh Kumar was making Man Mandir with Waheeda Rehman and Sanjeev Kumar. He called the producers home and got them to meet my father and that’s how Dad got his second film too. Shukla Aunty has also told me that it was Rajendra Uncle who first told my maternal grandfather to consider Dad a prospective match for his daughter. “My husband was younger than J Om Prakashji but it was like one big family because they had made so many movies together. So Rajendraji told Omji, ‘I know you and I know Bhabhiji very well. Both families are wonderful. Why don’t we get them married?’ That’s how your parents came together and my husband played a father’s role in their marriage. Rajendraji said, ‘Omji, ladki aap sambhalo, ladka hamara hai’ (Omji, you look after the girl and I’ll take care of the boy).”
By the way, everybody calls my grandfather Omji. When I was a child and would pick up the phone at his place, every time a caller would ask for “Omji”, I would say, “Here, Omji, call for you.” It stuck, and I too call my grandfather Omji to this day. When my parents’ marriage was being planned by Omji, Dad was working as an Assistant Director with Mohan Kumar, also a top-rung filmmaker of his time. Mohan Kumar was my maternal grandmother’s brother-in-law and Dad assisted him on two films—Anjaana and Aap Aaye Bahaar Aayi. Prompted by Rajendra Uncle’s suggestion, when my grandfather spotted Dad at one of Mohan Uncle’s house parties, the director in him visualised something unusual—he pictured his daughter Pinkie standing alongside the good-looking young man in the same frame.
… My mother didn’t question her parents when she was told that her marriage had been arranged. …Two days later, when she learnt who her husband would be, her heart soared. Ten days later, she met him for the first time, alone. She remembers every detail to this day: “He called me up and said, ‘I’m coming to your college today between 11.30 and 12.’” They met in the canteen at St. Xavier’s College where Mom was studying. For the next two hours, all she did was tremble, nod and say, “Okay.” “I had my head down the whole time,” she goes back in time. Dad was upfront with her, one of his marked characteristics. He asked Mom straightaway if she knew that he wanted to become an actor. She nodded. He asked her if she was ready to go with him on this journey not knowing what the route entailed—whether he’d succeed and make it big or struggle to find his footing. She said, “That’s okay.” Dad was also clear on one more front: he told her that he had a widowed mother who would always stay with them. So the question of breaking away and staying on their own would never arise. “Since he was so straightforward about it, it was never an issue. It never cropped up in our marriage,” Mom states.
My parents got married on April 22, 1971. Sunil Uncle could not make it to the wedding because he was working as an Assistant Director on a film in Manali. Coincidentally, Dad was acting in the same film and had taken leave to attend his own marriage. After the wedding, he reported on the set and my parents even enjoyed a short honeymoon in beautiful Manali. Sunil Uncle had managed to book a small place for them away from the crew and unit to give them privacy. When they reached Manali, the entire unit went to receive them with a band in attendance. What followed was much dancing and revelry on the streets.
Dad says that Mom was so quiet, they even cut short their honeymoon and returned home earlier than scheduled because she wouldn’t talk at all, there was no conversation between them! Mom is like a classical heroine. The ones we used to see on screen bathed in virtue and taught to be a pillar of support to those around her. She’s a beauty and Dad is dashing too. So their coming together was like a couple stepping out of a movie set.
Reality, too, was like a film script, studded with shocks and surprises.
Dad struggled with the helplessness of a man yearning to fetch the moon for his family but being stonewalled by failure at every turn. Mom slipped naturally into her role of being his support pillar. Dad’s frustrations, which sometimes led to bouts of rage, were tempered by her calm understanding. She countered volatility with sensitivity, ironing out every kind of emotional crease with delicate care. Mom slipped naturally into the role of a catalyst to temper his frustrations and the resultant rage that would flare up sporadically.
Mom has often said that if she hadn’t got married when she did, she would have been a sportswoman, maybe even an athlete, but a career girl for sure. When she gave up her studies to spend the rest of her life with the “handsomest man I had ever met”, she gave her marriage the dedication she would have funnelled into a career. With no fancy sessions with a counsellor or formal lessons in understanding human psychology, she drew on natural resources within her to grasp, analyse, accept and act intuitively on what she saw before her. Mom provided the calm every time there was a storm in their lives.
Dad couldn’t have done without her unquestioning and undemanding support in his rise to the top. Without a doubt, he could climb mountains only because she constantly held the oxygen cylinder for him.
Excerpted with permission from OM Books International from the title, “To Dad, With Love” by Sunaina Roshan
Available on this link.